Justice & correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE / GCIS
Justice & correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE / GCIS

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola says the government does not have to consult the public extensively on the regulations governing SA’s lockdown despite the implications they might have on the citizenry.

The regulations governing the lockdown, which was imposed under a national state of disaster in March and just extended for another month, severely curtails the freedoms of South Africans.

Ironically, when the government was forced to justify its ban on the sale of tobacco products a few months ago, it leant heavily on the 2,000 complaints it said had been received from the public complaining of the effects of its use on their health.

The strict lockdown has almost brought the economy to a complete halt, resulting in huge job losses as businesses collapsed and citizens were restricted to their homes. The lockdown also led to the closure of schools and churches, the banning of interprovincial travel except for business and funerals, the grounding of aircraft and the banning of alcohol and tobacco products.

Lamola told a media briefing held by the national coronavirus command council on Monday that there was a “low requirement” for public consultation on the regulations.

The briefing was held to flesh out the details of the changes in lockdown announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa in an address to the nation on Sunday evening in a bid to try to control the spread of the coronavirus as the country’s health systems come under severe pressure.

The country will remain on lockdown level 3, but new regulations, including a reinstated ban on alcohol sales and a reimposed curfew, were announced on Sunday evening. Taxis are allowed to load up to 100% of their capacity on short trips, up from 70%. 

During Monday’s briefing co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma asked the public for comments on the new regulations. But this was after they had already been gazetted.

Lamola said the government could still consult while the regulations are in force.

“In reality there is a very low requirement to consult with regards to regulations,” Lamola said.

However, he said it was decided that it was “necessary to do it”, and that the public could still comment on the new regulations.

Dealing with the rationality of the new regulations, Lamola said the government was confident that the decisions taken to the ban the sale alcohol and tobacco as well as allowing taxis to transport passengers at full capacity were “rationally related to fighting Covid”.

He said the decisions taken are looked at “holistically”. 

With the curfew being reimposed, this time starting at 9pm and ending at 4am, Lamola said permits will be checked during the period in which it is in effect.

“Someone will really have to prove that you are coming from or going to a permitted activity,” Lamola said.

Someone can also be asked during the day where they are going, he said. He said there had to be a reason for leaving home.  

As part of the new measures, wearing a mask was now mandatory. Lamola said the onus to ensure that a mask was worn now rested on store managers or building owners.  

While not wearing a mask is not criminalised for the individual at this stage, Lamola said if they did not see improvement in mask wearing, the duty, and by extension the criminal repercussion of it, will be extended to individuals.   

Correction: July 13 2020

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said government had relied on close to 200 complaints to make its decision to ban the sale of tobacco products. It was about 2,000 complaints.  

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